Japan may seek to limit future U.S. beef imports
by John Gregerson
Japanese Vice Agriculture Minister Mamoru Ishihara said Thursday that Japan is considering importing U.S. beef only from about 10 facilities Japanese officials have already inspected. Japan dispatched a team of inspectors to 11 facilities in five states — Colorado, Kansas, Texas, Nebraska and California — in December, days after announcing it was easing its import ban on U.S. beef. However, other developments suggest it is unlikely Japan will soon lift the ban on U.S. beef it reimposed last Friday. A U.S. delegation led by Agriculture Undersecretary J.B. Penn discussed the ban with Japanese authorities in Tokyo on Tuesday and Wednesday, but apparently failed to allay concerns about the reliability of the U.S. food safety system, Japanese officials told reporters.U.S. officials emphasized the veal with spinal material shipped from New York to Tokyo last week resulted from human error and was an isolated case. However, the explanation has not satisfied Japanese officials, who note that a U.S. government inspector at the packing plant, one of about 40 facilities certified by the U.S. government as eligible beef suppliers to Japan, was unaware of the violation.”We want them to reconstruct the inspection system from the beginning,” Agriculture Minister Shoichi Nakagawa said, adding that Japan could not resume imports until the Agriculture Department identified the cause of the violation and took measures to prevent a similar incident from occurring.Japanese officials also were annoyed by U.S. remarks that appeared to play down the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. “In fact, probably getting out of your automobile and walking into the store to buy beef, has a higher probability that you’ll be hit by an automobile than … the probability of any harm coming to you from eating beef,” U.S. Agriculture Undersecretary J.B. Penn told reporters.Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Jinen Nagase said U.S. officials should refrain from remarks that sounded like they were not serious about the issue.